Friday, May 28, 2010

this weekend's cake

So, the family I married into likes racing. As in NASCAR racing. As in loud cars speeding around a track racing.

Every year, Edwin drives to Richmond to spend the Memorial Day weekend with his dad (Steve), his grandparents (Grandma and Grandpa), his uncle (Uncle Rick), and sometimes EDW's sister (Elin). They watch some race on Sunday. I don't know what race it is, but it's a big one. And they watch. They call it Race Weekend. The librarian, architect, dentist, octogenarians and future crop scientist watch.

I'm going to Race Weekend this year.

I'm a little nervous, as I am not interested in racing at all (and I not so secretly judge it). But EDW insists they don't watch races all weekend, and he promises that there will be good eats and lots of visiting with the fam. (Besides, I'm not actually going to be watching the big race on Sunday-- I'm going shopping with my friend Ashley, which will be delightful.)

I wanted to bring a cake along. I was going to do another carrot cake, because my FIL loves carrot cake, but then I decided on bringing Grandpa's favorite cake: plain white sheet cake with white icing. It's not so adventurous, but comforting and delicious anyway. It's technically a yellow cake, but I'm guessing it will be close enough to Grandpa's liking.

And really, who doesn't love a sheet cake made from sugar, milk, butter, eggs and vanilla?

Here's what it looked like Thursday night, as I prepared it.I hope you like it. I made it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

oh, sweet potatoes

I made chicken with roasted sweet potato salad last night. Apparently, I have made this recipe before, as I found it this weekend (I do my menu planning for the week on Sundays) in my recipe binder. I had ripped the recipe out of February 2009's issue and even made a note about it on February 19. The note clearly displays my handwriting, but neither Edwin nor I remember this.

Oh, delicious roasted sweet potatoes, I can't believe I forgot about you in this recipe.

Basically, you take chicken breasts and cook them in a pan and put them next to a spinach salad with roasted sweet potatoes and red onion, which has been dressed with fresh lime juice. It's not hard, but it really tastes amazing.

I realize my chicken looks less than appealing, but really, it was good. I have a love-hate relationship with chicken breasts, as I tend to overcook them and not really love their flavor (but I enjoy their nutritional value). I think cooking these stovetop works because the flavor and moisture gets sealed in and the outside is slightly crisp.The stars of the show, as they almost always are for me these days, are the roasted sweet potatoes. I hope you like it. I made it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

black bean burgers!

I have been eyeing a veggie burger recipe for a while now (I found it in a magazine last year), and I wanted to make it last night. When I went to the store, however, I couldn't find canned lentils. The original recipe called for a can of lentils, but I got black beans instead. I was questioning my commitment to the veggie burgers with the original recipe, so I googled black bean burgers and found this one from Sandra Lee.

It was really easy to assemble, and I chilled my burgers for about an hour before they went on the grill. I've found that with non-beef burgers, it really helps to stick them in the fridge to firm up a bit before cooking, and I'm glad I did it with these. I didn't reserve part of the black bean mixture, either; I just made an extra 2 patties and froze them for another time.

I served the burgers with roasted sweet potatoes with agave nectar and rosemary, a side I made when my in-laws were here a couple weeks ago. I am obsessed with these sweet potatoes. They caramelize a little on the bottoms and are savory and sweet. I use dried rosemary and chop mine smaller than Maria, and they are out of this world delicious.The burgers were flavorful and satisfying, but mine completely fell apart. I ended up eating it with a fork and knife, which was fine, but Edwin's burger stayed in tact. I just heated up another for my lunch, and it stayed together, so I'm not really sure what's going on.

We melted cheddar cheese on top and put spinach, tomatoes, ketchup and spicy mustard on them. I loved these and will definitely repeat the meal.I hope you like it. I made it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

ice cream pie

I made an ice cream pie for Claude's birthday. We already know he loves vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce, but he likes mint chocolate chip ice cream as well, so I went with that. Here's what I did.

I used to make these pies for Edwin's birthday, but I had never tried it with homemade elements. I wanted to make the crust from scratch (well, almost scratch, since I used store bought cookies). I adapted another recipe to make my mint chocolate crust. Here's what I came up with, in blue:

For the crust:
1 sleeve Thin Mints
1 sleeve Oreos

2/3 stick butter, melted

Combine Thin Mints and Oreos in a food processor until the desired consistency has been reached. Mix the crumbs and melted butter in a bowl. Spread the crumb mixture into a pie pan and press into shape, including the sides. Chill at least one hour.After the crust had hardened, I filled it with softened ice cream. I used Breyer's Mint Chocolate Chip. (I let it soften while I ate breakfast and made the homemade fudge sauce.)I popped the pie back in the freezer while I finished the sauce, and then I spread a thick layer of sauce on top of the ice cream. I probably should have let the ice cream firm up a bit more or let the sauce cool, but I didn't feel like waiting. The top of my pie was, as a result, very runny.I topped everything with extra crumbs from the pie crust and called it a day. I let it freeze for about 8 hours before serving.We had the pie after dinner, and I have to say this is the best ice cream pie I have ever made. Using a homemade crust really made it special, and the layer of fudge sauce was exceptional. Edwin said his favorite part of the pie was where the fudge met the top layer of cookie crumbs, and I wholeheartedly agree.Carla and Claude thought it was pretty good, too.I hope you like it. I made it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

do you have...?

Every time I hear live music, I ask whoever I'm with, "Do you think they know Africa?" My favorite song in the entire world is Toto's "Africa." We danced to it several times at our wedding. When we go out to eat with Carla and Claude, Claude usually asks, "Do you think they have ice cream and chocolate sauce?" It's the same thing. He loves vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce like I love hearing "Africa."

We're celebrating Claude's birthday tonight-- going to dinner and then back to C and C's for dessert. I made Claude an ice cream pie, and I'll blog about that later. For now, I want to show you part of his birthday gift from the Arnaudins:

Homemade Fudge Sauce
!

It is a quick and easy recipe and the outcome is beautiful. Honestly, how could an outcome be anything but glorious when the recipe only contains chocolate, half and half, sugar and vanilla?
Claude will be getting a lovely jar tonight, and there's some sauce on the pie and some in our fridge, too. It makes a ton and is fantastic.
I hope you like it. I made it.

Friday, May 21, 2010

a welcome surprise

Okay so this has nothing to do with cooking whatsoever, but I don't have a twitter account. If I did, it would say "shut up shut up shut up just got an ARC of Monsters of Men!"

This is the third installment of the Choas Walking series, which I'm obsessed with. Not as obsessed as Hunger Games, but plenty obsessed.

If you trust my taste in food, you should trust my taste in books, and read this series. It's not as scary as the Hunger Games, but it's compelling and exciting and original.

You should be jealous. I have a cake to make this weekend (happy birthday Claude!) but other than that I don't plan on cooking, as I have Monsters of Men to start and I'm in the middle of Rick Riordan's newest, The Red Pyramid, which is fantastic so far.

Books and food. Food and books. Make me happy.

I hope you like it. I'm going to read it.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

splendid!

I was feeling unexcited about Wednesday's dinner prospect (pizzas on sandwich thins and salad) when my weekly Splendid Table recipe arrived in my in-box. Goodbye, using what I have to make boring dinner and hello, Warm Balsamic Bean Salad on Lettuces! (If you think you want to make this meal, go ahead and click the link to get to the newsletter now. As of next week, this recipe will be gone and you'll see the current weeknight kitchen meal.)

I already had spinach in my fridge so I just used that instead of mixed salad greens. It was just as easy to make as Lynne said it would be, and the onions, rosemary, and garlic made my kitchen smell amazing. I used pinto beans, as I couldn't find cannellini beans this afternoon.I was surprised by how much I liked the sliced celery on the greens-- I'm normally not a celery in salad kinda girl, but it made a nice crunch. I didn't have manchego (my favorite cheese) but I shaved some parmesan on top.
The beans melted the cheese a bit, which was pleasant, and this was tasty. It took me a minute to get used to the strong vinegar flavor in the dish, but after I got going it was a really hearty and flavorful meal. Edwin thinks it seems more like an appetizer salad, but I liked it as our main meal. It would be good, too, I think paired with fish or chicken. I also loved sopping up the leftover vinegar with our whole wheat sandwich thins, as recommended.

Overall, I was really satisfied with this recipe. It says it serves two to four, and we had lots for leftovers. We'll see how it reheats tonight. I hope you like it. I made it.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

monday night dinner

No visit to Raleigh is complete without multiple trips to Whole Foods (hello hot bar and banana peach soy shakes) and at least one stop at the Trader Joe's. I came back late Sunday night bearing dried fruit (dried peaches and pears); trail mix (Wasabi Wow is amazing!); TJ's Harvest Grain Blend (for Edwin's favorite salad tonight), and this tomato and roasted red pepper soup. I love Trader Joe's soup in a carton-- it's obviously not as fresh as it would be if I made it, but it is seriously delish. We had the soup last night with curry chicken salad sandwiches. For the curry chicken salad, I used this recipe for curry chicken salad crisps. Edwin bought a rotisserie chicken from Ingles while I was away, so I just used that leftover chicken instead of boiling my own, and I didn't do the wonton crisps, though they look amazing. We had a ripe mango ready to use, and it was perfect with the chicken, red onion, celery, craisins, almonds and curry dressing. I would probably use a bit more curry powder next time, but this chicken salad is an absolute dream. I'm throwing two showers later this year, and I'm wondering if Char (the bride!) or Carla (the mother to be!) like curry. If they do, I definitely want to make the salad crisps for their events.

All in all, it was a satisfying, flavorful meal, and EDW is thrilled to have me back home.

I hope you like it. I made it.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

question

Does anyone know why my cakes fall in the center?

It can't be that my baking powder and baking soda aren't fresh-- they are and I keep them in airtight containers.

Here's what happens: I bake a cake (coffee cake, carrot cake, Italian Cream...). I use various pans and various recipes. They ALWAYS come out looking perfect and then fall in the middle as they cool. I cover it up with icing, so no one knows, but why does this happen?

Surely there's some chemical reason, and I want to know.

Thanks, preesh.

P.S. I may not have new posts for a few days. I'm going to Raleigh for my 5 year reunion (hollllaaaa) and will be busy 1) having a mini-Granseefest with Char, Ash, and Emmel (who didn't go to MC but is a bff); 2)seeing college friends; 3)watching my friend Amanda get ordained Sunday. Good times are ahead!

Monday, May 10, 2010

new blog!

The queen and king of library love have created a blog! Emily and Nat are cooking up a storm-- check out their blog here.

mother's day brunch

Edwin's parents came to visit us for the weekend (and I forgot to take a photo of them!). We had a great time, especially since all activities revolved around meals and/or carrot cake.

Sunday, I made a mother's day brunch in honor of Mary. I made this frittata with artichokes, sun dried tomatoes and feta cheese, and wow. It was delicious. It was just as filling as a traditional breakfast casserole but tasted way fancier. We all loved it.

I halved the recipe and it was perfect for the four of us. I ran out of feta to sprinkle on top, so I used parmesan. Yum.To round out the brunch, we had berries tossed in agave nectar, my new bff sweetener, and toast from this bread. When I made the recipe last month, you'll remember it made two loaves. I froze one and pulled it from the freezer this weekend, and I'm glad to report that the bread thaws perfectly. It makes the best toast, and we had apple butter from Mercier's, homemade strawberry preserves, and honey for topping.

I even used our fancy china.All in all, it was a great weekend. Come back soon, Mary and Steve!I hope you like it. I made it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

pasta fail

Our library gets A Taste of Home magazine, and I usually browse through and make copies of things that look appealing. I found a recipe a while ago for Mediterranean Chicken Pasta and I brought it home. Unfortunately, I can't find it on the Taste of Home website-- but you won't want it. I thought it was a major fail.I made it for dinner Tuesday night, my mom's last night of her visit. Sautee onion, then add flour and chicken broth, and heat until it's thickened. So far so good. Then add cooked chicken (the recipe called for deli chicken, but I just boiled some chicken breasts and cubed them), artichoke hearts, black olives and sundried tomatoes. Toss that with pasta (I used whole wheat) and feta, and put under the broiler for about 5 minutes.

Sounds like it would be great, right?

Wrong. I was so unimpressed with this dish. Mom and EDW said it was good, and Edwin's been eating the leftovers all week, but I think they were just being nice. It didn't have enough Mediterranean flavor to me to merit its title, and there was something about it that reminded me of a Cream Of soup. If there's one thing I will NEVER like, mark my words, it's dishes made with Cream Of soups. Cream of mushroom, cream of chicken, cream of anything. Vom. Don't mess up green beans or other vegetables by adding it. Don't make chicken pot pie with it. Don't use it. Don't.

Don't make this pasta.DO use extra artichoke hearts and sundried tomatoes for a Mother's Day fritatta, like me. And maybe next time, just toss pasta, artichoke hearts, sundried tomatoes, olives and feta with a little olive oil and call it a day.

I don't like it. I made it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

cinco de mayo

Edwin and I had a little Cinco de Mayo party on Wednesday. We invited Carla and Claude and had a fiesta. I made beef tacos, corn and tomato salad, and mango salsa.

I used homemade taco seasoning, which I loved. It has a kick and isn't too salty, and I have plenty of it leftover for next time. There were toppings for the tacos as well. I have been making this corn and tomato salad forever-- it's one of the few things I could make even back in Durham, and we used to have it with our tacos from a box. To make, combine about half a bag of frozen corn, a pint of grape tomatoes, and a diced avocado. In a separate bowl, combine about 3 sliced green onions, 1/4 cup of lemon or lime juice, and a lot of fresh cilantro. Add the dressing to the corn and tomatoes and stir. Let sit for about an hour, so the corn can thaw and the flavors can blend, and salt and pepper to taste. I like it on its own or served over a bed of greens, which is what we did Wednesday.I made Martha's mango salsa and it was amazing. I used the recipe from my Martha Stewart cookbook, but there are about a billion versions of it online. Mine included a jalapeno, 2 mangoes, half a red onion, lime juice, a tomato, cilantro and salt and pepper.We had it with chips before the meal and then as a delicious side during dinner. I also broke out the salsa pig and offered some jarred salsa.

Carla and Claude made their famous margaritas, which were fantastic. I don't have that recipe, but it involves triple sec, tequila, frozen limeade and ice. Carla helped make it but didn't actually have a margarita-- she has a flan in the oven (due in October!).All in all, it was an easy and festive event.

I hope you like it. I made it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

welcome, mommers!

My mother is here visiting the Murph for a few days, and to celebrate her arrival I prepared a fancy dinner her first night. I made Sara Foster's pork chops* and roasted sweet potato salsa** and Alice Water's grapefruit and avocado salad***.The pork chops are simple: olive oil, salt, pepper, and marjoram. I couldn't find fresh so used dried, and it was just fine that way. We grilled them for a shorter amount of time because they weren't as thick as the ones Sara calls for. Delish.

Sara Foster sometimes makes comments about her recipes or gives good ideas for sides-- the sweet potatoes were her idea, and they are awesome. They're a side and a topping all in one. I guess it's a salsa because the potatoes, tomato, green onion, red pepper, jalapeno, and cilantro are all chopped pretty small and tossed with a little lime juice and zest? I loved this. I absolutely loved the roasted flavor of the potatoes, which were lightly coated in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chili powder and cumin. I will definitely make this sweet potato dish often.

And the salad. Oh, Alice Waters, thank you for giving us such a simple and surprising salad. It's just ruby red grapefruit, lightly salted avocado and arugula, all tossed with a dressing made of fresh grapefruit juice, olive oil, white wine vinegar, and salt and pepper. My in-laws are coming Friday, and I'm already planning on making this salad again. It's just fantastic.

This meal was pretty to look at and was super fresh and flavorful. A winner to welcome my mommers. I hope you like it. I made it.

*Foster, Sara. Fresh Every Day: More Great Recipes from Foster's Market. "Simple Succulent Grilled Pork Chops." p. 166
**Foster, Sara. Fresh Every Day: More Great Recipes from Foster's Market. "Roasted Sweet Potato Salsa." p. 198
***Waters, Alice. The Art of Simple Food. "Grapefuit and Avocado Salad." p. 240

Saturday, May 1, 2010

you'll never guess

If you know me, you will never guess what I willingly prepared for lunch today.

I have a long-standing hatred of mayonnaise. It grosses me out, to the max. I hate mayo. I hate sandwiches with mayo. I hate salads made of mayo. I especially hate the combination of mayonnaise and hard boiled eggs, in any capacity. I hate looking at mayo for that long. It just disgusts me.











Except lately, it doesn't.

I know. I know. I don't even know who I am anymore.

Here's what happened. My favorite restaurant in Murphy, the Chop House, has a killer BLTA sandwich at lunch (bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado). One day I ordered it and forgot to say no mayo, so when it came, I decided to just try it. It was extra delicious with the mayonnaise.

Then a few weeks later I ordered a BLT from The Daily Grind in Andrews. It had mayo, too, and it really wasn't bad.

I make dressings and dips using mayonnaise, and those have never bothered me because they aren't straight up mayo, but with the sandwiches, I slowly learned to enjoy the white spread on its own (well not on its own, I'm not going to be like Su and eat it with a spoon).

Then at Lindsey's wedding, I ate some chicken salad at the brunch her parents gave. I really liked it.

So last night, I did something I thought I'd never ever EVER do: I made chicken salad with the intention of eating it myself.

I used Pioneer Woman's recipe for chicken salad, because it calls for the dressing to be made with half mayonnaise and half yogurt. I used plain greek, because I love it and always have it, and followed the rest of the recipe almost exactly. I made it last night and Edwin and I had it for lunch today.Okay, this chicken salad is amazing! I love the textures and flavors, and it was fantastic on a sandwich thin with arugula and honey mustard.

I'm not ready to say I like every chicken salad in the world, but I definitely love this one. And the one at Lindsey's brunch.

Just don't expect me to ever like deviled eggs. Vom.I hope you like it. I made it.